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Historic New Approach To VA Healthcare Introduced

Location: Washington, DC


Expressing strong confidence in the current healthcare system run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senator Larry Craig said today that he is willing to see how the system might fare in competition with the free market. Under legislation he is introducing - The Veterans Healthcare Empowerment Act - veterans with service connected disabilities will be able to go to any hospital or medical clinic of their choice.

"Many of my colleagues have spent the past week or so accusing VA of ‘failing' our injured service-members. Most of their evidence is based on reports from the news media who have highlighted recently a number of veterans who were treated badly by VA or who do not have faith in VA's care. I take these concerns very seriously. But, I am also a little frustrated by it," said Craig.

"That's why today, I will introduce legislation that says: If you have a service- connected disability, go wherever you want. No strings. No ifs, ands, or buts. Let's find out where veterans choose to go."

Approximately 2.5 million veterans have service connected disabilities and approximately 1.7 million currently use the VA healthcare system. VA operates 154 hospitals and 881 outpatient clinics. Craig's healthcare bill would operate somewhat like the G.I. Bill, which allows veterans to choose the college or university of their choice.

"It's very simple, if service-connected veterans leave in droves, we've learned something. But, if veterans overwhelmingly stay, and I think they will, we've also learned something," Craig said. "This bill is about my confidence in VA."

The senior senator from Idaho noted that VA's health care system has consistently been ranked as among the best in the nation. For the seventh year in a row, a study conducted by the VA's health care system outscored the private sector in the University of Michigan's Consumer Satisfaction Survey

* VA outscored the private sector by 11 percent in inpatient care (84 to 73 percent)
* VA outscored them in outpatient care by 11 percent (82 to 71 percent)
* 91 percent of VA patients were satisfied with the overall customer service at VA
* VA also scored 94 percent in "veterans loyalty" category

Other national publications have also touted VA's healthcare system. Last year Time Magazine had a front page article titled "How VA Hospitals Became the best Health Care?" and Business Week called VA healtcare"The Best Medical Care In The U.S." More recently Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government awarded VA it's "Innovations in American Government award" for VA's electronic health record and performance system.

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